Friday, February 15, 2013

Food Wasteland

As a nation we have lurched from one food crisis to another from beef to poultry and now there is horse DNA in our processed foods. We are told that this is not an argument about horse meat, it is an argument about labeling. Though we at Pig Row wonder how many people would buy horse meat. Though we are not squeamish about meat at Pig Row, we do know the British do have a love for Black Beauty, Champion and Trigger.




We have, as a nation, been boxing ourselves in since the 1970s as we slowly turned our backs on the high street for supermarkets. We thought it would give us choice, cut our shopping times in half and make meals easier as more and more packaging came in along with the processed food revolution. One of the worst revolutions for UK families as they have seen more fats, salts and sugars laced into their meals (see a fascinating report entitled Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century). Our waistline may have increased but prices have been forced down, then over inflated as some leading supermarkets seek to control food content and prices. Our food market has dwindled from a literal local market where hundreds of independent stalls would give us choice to a hand full of big names controlling a dwindling UK supply chain. How many local markets are left in the UK? How many of us shop at them? And more importantly how many of us eat seasonally? We have created food wastelands. If you want fresh strawberries out of season you have to accept that the big supermarkets have got you and even if you buy them from an independent shop, their supply chains have you. If you think those two chickens for £7 is a bargain, you have not considered the supply chain. Supermarkets set prices, customers don't, if you want to see this in action then dig out your last supermarket shopping receipt and then go to a local market, greengrocers, butchers and fishmongers, and compare prices on the most simple of things, an apple, a steak, a piece of salmon and you will be shocked, I guarantee you that. You will realise that the greatest magic trick of the twentieth century has suckered you in. There are bargains to be had but you have simply been had. I am not saying supermarkets are evil but supermarkets have cut our choices as a shopper, has gutted the local high street and have detached us from the food chain. The longer the chain from the field to us, the more likely that something will go wrong. The trace-ability that is in place to tag, record and follow the movement of whole cuts of meat doesn't exist when it comes to pieces of meat sent into the processing industry, meat destined for ready meals, dog food and takeaways. We have yet to consider the latter, horse DNA has been found in our supermarkets, there is a good chance they are in our in some of our fast food restaurants who rely on the supermarkets and the same supply chains to supply them with cheap meat. That may is the elephant in the room here, we think every meal should be meat, and that that meat should be cheap when the simple fact is meat is expensive to rear, to butcher and to process. You pay for what's not in your meat. Don't be surprised if there's horse DNA in there, don't be surprised that someone has been dishonest because you have been dishonest too, you have turned your back on the countryside, on the people who reared your food because you were conned by the bright lights of a supermarket and the food so readily available out of season. We have all been guilty of that, the lesson here is not who we should blame but what we should do. So turn your back again, but this time turn it on the people who deserve it, the supermarkets. Return to the butcher, the greengrocer, the local market and the fishmonger. 
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